Recipes from a North Indian Kitchen: Daal Makhani and Malai Kofta
We love daal and it’s a good job as it is a staple food in India, served at most meal times with rice and chapatti. North Indian Daal Makhani is a grown up version of the dish, the addition of a healthy slab of butter giving it a rich silky, savoury and comforting flavour.
Where daal is a regular feature of the table, Malai Kofta is for special occasions due to its rich creamy texture. It’s a great alternative to a meat-based curry and guaranteed to please vegetarians. Malai means cream and kofta means dumpling. We ate several versions of Malai Kofta but our favourite had fruits in the kofta. In addition to raisins you could add chopped apricots.
We made both these dishes in our North Indian cooking class in Pushkar. We hope you enjoy making them (and eating them) as much as we did. They are really very tasty and probably significantly better than you’ll get in your local take away. Just a note on technique – both recipes require the butter to be heated until it foams. This is typical of north Indian cooking – partially for flavour, but also to remove excess water content in the butter.
200g / 1 cup lentils such as channa daal (split chickpeas), moong daal (mung/green gram) masoor (red lentils), urad daal (urid)
½ tsp Asafoetida powder
1½ tsp cumin seeds
2 cassia leaf or a small piece of cinnamon bark
For the Masala
½ teaspoon chilli powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp coriander powder
2 tbsp finely chopped red onion
1 tsp grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tomato, chopped
Lemon juice to taste
Handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Wash and drain the lentils. Cook according to packet instructions until soft. (This can be done a day in advance and kept in an airtight container in the fridge.)
Melt the butter in a frying pan on a medium heat until foaming. Reduce the heat and add the cumin seeds, asafoetida and cassia leaf. Immediately add the onion to prevent the spices from burning. When the onion starts to become more vibrant in colour, add the garlic and ginger.
Add the masala to the pan and stir until the butter separates and can be seen on top, then add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the lentils and cook on a low heat for until soft and well blended.
Add lemon juice to taste and sprinkle with coriander leaves.
For the Kofta
2 medium sized potatoes, boiled, mashed and cooled.
115g / ½ cup paneer, crumbled
3 tsp gram flour
2 tbsp raisins
For the Masala
pinch of salt
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp cumin powder
Oil for deep frying
For the gravy
3 garlic cloves
1 cm ginger
115g / ½ cup thick double cream
250g / 1 cup natural yogurt
2 tbsp cashew nuts blended with 1 tsp water to form a paste
1 tsp cumin powder
¼ tsp asafoetida
2 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
Pinch of salt
½ tsp chilli
3 tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp tumeric
To make the kofta, mix all of the potato, paneer and gram flour until they form a soft dough. Roll into 12 small balls placing a few raisins in the centre of each ball.
Heat the oil until medium hot and fry the kofta in batches until golden brown. Drain and set aside on kitchen roll.
Chop one onion. Blend the remaining onions, garlic and ginger in a blender until they form a paste.
Heat the butter in a saucepan on a moderately high heat until foaming. Add the cumin powder, asafoetida and cardamom pods and immediate add the chopped onion to prevent them from burning. As the onion begins to brown, add the pureed onion, garlic and ginger. Cook until the onion has softened.
Add the remaining spices and butter and cook until the butter separates. Add the yoghurt, cream and cashew paste and bring to the boil on a low flame. Add the koftas and cook until warmed through.
Delicious served with chapatti, naan or rice.